Constitutional amendment; free exercise of religion (first reference). (SJ287)

Introduced By

Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Moneta) with support from co-patron Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate


Constitutional amendment (first resolution); free exercise of religion. Adds to the present constitutional provision on freedom of religion and provides that the right to worship includes prayer in private or public settings, on government premises, on public property, and in all public schools. The amendment also requires public schools to display the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution. The proposed amendment is based on a provision in the Missouri Constitution approved by the Missouri voters August 7, 2012. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


01/04/2013Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/09/13 13100576D
01/04/2013Referred to Committee on Privileges and Elections
01/15/2013Assigned to P&E sub: Constitutional Amendments, Reapportionment and Referenda
01/29/2013Reported from Privileges and Elections with substitute (8-Y 6-N) (see vote tally)
01/29/2013Committee substitute printed 13104723D-S1
01/30/2013Incorporates SJ261
01/31/2013Reading waived (40-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/01/2013Read second time
02/01/2013Reading of substitute waived
02/01/2013Committee substitute agreed to 13104723D-S1
02/01/2013Engrossed by Senate - committee substitute SJ287S1
02/04/2013Passed by for the day
02/05/2013Read third time
02/05/2013Motion to recommit to committee agreed to
02/05/2013Recommitted to Privileges and Elections
02/06/2013Left in Privileges and Elections


This bill was discussed on the floor of the General Assembly. Below is all of the video that we have of that discussion, 1 clip in all, totaling 6 minutes.


ACLU-VA Religious Liberty, tracking this bill in Photosynthesis, notes:

The ACLU of Virginia opposes this resolution because it unnecessarily amends the Virginia Constitution, reiterating the free exercise of religion provisions that already exist. Individuals already have a right under the federal and state constitutions to pray and recognize their religious beliefs on public property, including schools. Ultimately, this legislation only creates confusion because it’s not clear whether it’s simply echoing the First Amendment and court precedent, and is therefore unnecessary, or allows state endorsement of religion, which is therefore unconstitutional.

John Morris writes:

The bill appears to be an attempt at state endorsement of religion, which is unconstitutional.

Jean Lowe writes:

Virginia proudly takes its place as the foremost proponent of the separation of church and state guaranteeing this right in our state and US Constitutions.

If this proposed bill simply reaffirms our existing rights under the Constitution and court precedents, it is unnecessary in my opinion and is even perhaps an invitation to mischief and confusion.

It seems to me that all too often sectarian prayers that end with "through Jesus Christ, our Lord" are used at public occasions that are attended by those of other religions. Although I am a Christian myself, I felt very uncomfortable in front of my Jewish friends with many of the prayers at President Obama's inauguration.

I treasure my own right to exercise my religion and I want that for others as well.

Christine Faia writes:

It is the Constitutional right of every American to exercise his/her religion. This includes the right to pray any time, any place. That is,if one is not intent on upon a DISPLAY of his/her particular religion. If one is praying to God, this is private and personal matter, which cannot be abridged by the state, or for that matter, by any institution or individual. The PUBLIC exercise of religion, including prayer, any time, any place, is not appropriate, because it imposes a religious exercise on all who are assembled. Being expected to join in corporate prayer or to submit to a prayer in a public meeting, including a public educational institution is offensive to many. This resolution is clearly unconstitutional and if it were to become law, Virginia would waste precious tax dollars on a costly and contentious losing battle.

Daren Brown writes:

I find this interesting in that line one of the substitution states "That the Commonwealth shall not coerce any person to participate in any prayer or other religious activity," and yet, landowners and hunters are forced to acknowledge and observe the sabbath of Christianity by not being authorized by law to partake in hunting of certain species on Sunday.

Jerry Frawley writes:

Oh please people pass this change and then watch all the lawsuits that come from it. This will open the door for some many of today's laws to be challenged o n the basis of the true separation of church and state that this represents. Any time there is a mention of religion or any portion of it in a bill or discussion of a bill will invalidate it under this amendment. Please please pass this so many of us can sit back and watch all those on both the right and left know the true meaning of what this will do. From hunting laws to building codes will fall by the wayside. Tax exemptions and special zoning variances. Swearing in ceremonies to opening ceremonies to court case on church related items would have to go. Yes pleas pass this amendment.

robert legge writes:

Is there a problem that this bill is supposed to address or is this another VA constitutional amendment for recreational purposes?